Do you have shoulder pain bench pressing ?

Does your bench press not get stronger?

This article may help alleviate some of your pain and discomfort while bench pressing.

Most individuals who bench press like to lay down on the bench with a flat back. If we want a full range of motion for the bar to touch the nipple line without pain we are going to need 2 things

  1. short arms- not everyone can have this advantage
  2.  scapular retraction

This is an important piece to bench pressing that many people are unaware of and it can be the key to unlocking your shoulder pain.

The shoulder joint is the most misunderstood joint in the body. Depending on who you  are asking, the shoulder joint is made up of anywhere between 18 and 24 muscles in order to make it work. Another fact is that the ball of our glenohumeral head is bigger than the socket, which provides our bodies with that wide range of motion we get from the shoulder joint. How does this tie in with the bench press? While bench pressing, one big key factor for movement our shoulder is pinned down and unable to move. That is the scapula. The scapula is your shoulder blade. For the long limbed individuals, bench pressing can seem hard due to increased range of motion. The bench bar path is much longer than someone with short arms. When the scapula are pinned against the bench, the ball of the shoulder joint will have to still make the movement happen even though it might not have the range of motion. With the ball being bigger than the socket, it will slightly come out of place to make the movement happen, which can cause impingement and bursitis at the shoulder joint.

shoulder ball and socket joint

In a dip or push up the scapula can retract because there is nothing restricting the scapula. For some this may be difficult. If it is difficult try to think about lifting your chest up with your upper back. Almost like a “pivot”.

scap retraction

For push ups and other movements that we can retract our scapula we don’t have to do this but for the bench press we might need to in order to prevent shoulder impingement.

scapular movement

“Pivoting” at the upper back is basically arching the thoracic spine. This is different from arching the lower back. Here is an example of arching the t spine.

arching the t spine

  • * this is an arch in the upper back not lower back. This will aid in decreased range of motion for the shoulder joint. For some, the arch may not be necessary for shoulder health depending on the limb length.

To feel what this may feel like, use a foam roller and open up . Keep your low back from arching.


Opening up the T spine for all movements is not necessary. Consider only opening up and pressing like this for exercises that pin the scapula to the bench (incline, decline, some shoulder presses). As for pushups and other movements where our scapula are free, “hide the ribs (pull them down) and embrace the core”.





  • retract the scapula
  • lift the t spine (this will depress the scapula) if scapula is pinned down during pressing
  • if not pinned down, no need to lift the T spine.

Good luck !!